Game Review: Uncharted 4

“Greatness from small beginnings…”

I spent the week before the release of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, replaying the original trilogy. I must have played these games at least a half dozen times each by now and I can’t help but be in awe of them yet again. The Uncharted series are arguably  among the greatest games ever created.

Nathan Drake’s adventures are like being part of an Indiana Jones film that goes on for 15 hours. These are beautiful, well written games, filled with characters who you immediately fall in love with and root for. This series always has it’s small share of minor annoyances…and after playing all of them consecutively, I can say that the first Uncharted can be a bit jerky control wise, sometimes making finding cover a chore. Uncharted 2 is rather flawless and EASILY my favorite of the series, with some of the most amazing action set pieces and well balanced gameplay. Uncharted 3 while smooth playing and filled with great moments, is very clunky in the shooting aspect of things, with a rigid cross-hair that you never quite get used to, making combat a genuine chore. These are very minor grievances however, as the pros of this magnificent series far outweigh the cons, making Uncharted an absolute delight to revisit over and over.

Which brings us to Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End…Naughty Dogs final adventure with Nathan Drake. And what an adventure it is.

Let’s just get the most noticeable aspect of this game out of the way first, it is absolutely breathtaking visually. Never have I seen visuals on any platform that come close to the level of detail and beauty on display here. This is one gorgeous video game. The sheer amount of time it must have taken to bring this creation to life is unfathomable. This is truly the first “next gen” game to truly showcase what is possible with the power of the Playstation 4. Lush jungles, sandy beaches, ancient castles, all stunningly created and interactive. On more than one occasion, I would stop just to take in the scenery around me and marvel at it’s beauty. It’s that gorgeous.

Uncharted 4 is also the best the series has ever played. Never before has taking cover, shooting and scaling walls felt this good. Some minor button placement changes took a little adjusting, but after a while it truly felt how this series should have played this entire time. New elements such as the grappling hook and sliding down steep hills are a welcome addition and handle wonderfully as well.

My only real problem with Uncharted 4, is a bit hard to put into words without coming across as too critical…and that’s with the pacing. This adventure (like all Uncharted games) is very story driven, but there were times where I felt I was doing a bit too much cut scene watching and not enough playing, a first in this series. Action set pieces, while spectacular as always, do feel a bit few and far between here. There are also some gameplay elements that feel repetitive and tedious…I mean, how many times do I really need to push a crate? I felt myself being taken out of the game quite a few times due to some very oddly placed elements. I also feel that the story being told here, while engaging, well written and furthering the story of young Nathan Drake is kind of a wimpy Macguffin for a final adventure. Nathans brother Sam is a great addition and the chemistry is really great. I also enjoyed the villainous Nadine, who is an absolute badass. Also returning are Sully (who has less of a part to play here) and Elena, who now married to Drake brings a whole other level of complexity and understanding to their already great relationship.

Beautiful, perfectly controlled, wonderfully acted and as marvelous a game as they come, Uncharted 4 stalls a bit here and there, but a bittersweet, yet satisfying ending really wrap things up nicely for this now decade old series.

As much as it makes me sad that there will not be another Uncharted game to look forward to, I am feverishly waiting to see what developer Naughty Dog creates next. After the success of Uncharted and The Last of Us, they have proven they understand that gaming is a medium that can transcend a narrative driven experience in ways that books and cinema cannot.

Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune 4/5
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves 5/5
Uncharted 3: Drakes Deception 3.5/5
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End 4.5/5

-Sock Talk Jon-

Game Review: Shadow of Mordor

More like BORE-dor

Shadow of Mordor is a game that completely went under my radar up until two days before it’s release. I had never heard of it, then all of a sudden rave reviews for it started popping up on my most trusted of video game sites. Having conquered Destiny and looking for a new challenge for my Xbox One, I decided to dive into Middle Earth. Now I can’t help but wonder if any of those rave reviews were written by anyone who has even played a video game in the past 5 years…

If you’re one of the 10 people who still hasn’t played one of the dozen or so Assassins Creed, or the four Batman: Arkham games that have come out the past few years, I can see how you might enjoy Shadow of Mordor. It’s got slick combat, stealth, leveling up, and a sort of open world to explore. What’s not to love?! Well, if you ARE sick of the merciless shoveling down your throat of Assassins Creed and Batman games (which while great, have ruined themselves with over saturation), then you will find very little to enjoy here. This game doesn’t have a single original idea whatsoever, aside from it’s Orc captain system, which is still essentially the interrogation system from Batman. While the world is moderately open, enemies respawn within minutes of your killing them, which in turn means you can kill them again and again for the same amount of XP. This makes leveling up incredibly easy and your incentive to become stronger, meaningless. I also found the difficulty (which you cant change) to be incredibly easy, I didn’t die once while slicing through foe after mindless foe.

Besides being a wholly unoriginal Creed/Batman ripoff, it also doesn’t look particularly good for a next gen game, visuals are rather bland, textures are muddy and this just looks like a game that was meant for last gen, but ported over to capitalize on those of us looking for some next gen content. On the plus side, voice acting is top notch and the plot is surprisingly dark and intriguing, but this is a video game and does not make up for gameplay so generic and repetitive that after 3 or so hours, I no longer cared about what I was doing. Simply put, it isn’t fun.

Throw this one back into the pits of Mount Doom.

PROS: Tight gameplay, Intriguing story

CONS: Bland visuals, Repetitive, Easy, Assassins Creed/Batman ripoff


-Sock Talk Jon-